Wikipedia in the “Scale” of Online Museum Publishing

During last weekend’s Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon (which I attended at MoMA) the Editors’ Tutorial presentation stated “all materials in Wikipedia must be attributed to a reliable, published source.”  What exactly makes a source reliable, the audience asked? The editors’ team conferred and decided gallery websites weren’t objective enough, resources the Museum was providing would be a good start, and if contributors weren’t sure about a source, they could ask one of the museum staff members for help.

Since I’ve been looking at the differences between museum-created-publications and museum-sanctioned-publications, this raised questions. Is a museum-sponsored edit-a-thon article “museum-created”, “museum-sanctioned”, both or neither?  How does directly involving museum staff members alter the nature of the articles, if at all?

Orit Gat, (who was also a speaker at the Art+Feminism event) defines museum-created-publications by dividing them into two categories: the first category perpetuates the institution’s mission through published formal research and the second category has a separate, complimentary identity as a behind-the-scenes look at the institution.  Of those two, museum staff contributing to Wikipedia would be more similar to the first category, since the contributing staff are amalgamating published, formal research. But contributing to a non-museum website using materials from the official MoMA library seemed different.  Is it another category?  Lori Byrd Phillips addressed this by coining the phrase open authority. “Opening up authority,” she explains, “within a global platform can increase points of view and establish a more complete representation of knowledge.” Her example of Wikipedia is as follows:

“In fact, the Wikipedia articles themselves can be viewed as a sort of authority in flux, where the best version of the moment is presented for view while details are continually negotiated behind the scenes. In this temple it is understood that no narrative is definitive, neutrality is the goal but bias is inherent, and interpretation is continuously improved through an abundance of perspectives.”

In relation to Gat’s groupings, does open authority fit within the categories of museum publishing or is it separate?  Thinking about the Art+Feminism Edit-a-thon, when museum staffers contributed to a Wikipedia entry, is that article a type of museum publication? What about an article that had staff and non-staff contributions? Or an article written during the edit-a-thon that used the museum’s published resources, but didn’t involve their staff? Does a staff member have the responsibility to drive the museum’s mission on a non-museum platform, if Wikipedia is a type of museum publishing?

Not sure what I think of it yet, but it circles back to my main question: How is the museum identifying and behaving in web culture?

People Magazine, Museum Studies, and me.

When People Magazine starts writing articles about graduate level Museum Studies departments, it is probably as good a time as ever to announce that I, too, am a student in that department.

People Magazine Tweet
We overlapped as students for exactly a day and a half, but I’ll just blissfully assume that all the paparazzi fanfare at graduation was standard and anticipate getting my own article in People.

I’m pleased to share that I am now a PhD student at the UK’s University of Leicester School of Museum Studies in their part-time distance learning division.   It’s an honor (honour?) to be studying at the top museum research school in the world under the direction of their faculty scholars.  What’s that feeling? Oh, that’s the “Impostor Syndrome” hitting me now.

Doing this degree by distance learning is amazingly logical once one wraps their head around how the British educational system works.  There, PhD students already have their Masters degrees, so there is no taught component – therefore, the meetings with one’s advisor are via Skype, scholarly articles are emailed, and research is conducted at any museum around the world.  This also means that I’m still living and working (full-time at Antenna) on this side of the Atlantic.

I’m not quite ready to share the details of my research topic just yet.  For those of you who do know me, you won’t be surprised; it combines my interest in the behind-the-scenes of museums with my favorite hobby, reading things on the Internet.

So here is the first post of my PhD blog, which will soon be full of my hopefully astute, thought provoking postgraduate insights about the museum world.  And congratulations Princess Mako on your graduation, from your fellow student for a day and a half.